Opinions, Accountability And Shouting From The Cyber Soapbox

GARETH Southgate should get his tin hat on quickly because after the beginning of what will be three days of exclusive head-to-head interviews with Uncle Eric in the Gazette (here’s part two) he can expect a lot of incoming high-explosive.


Given the bi-polar nature of public opinion on the Boro ‘street’ any utterance is merely the prelude to the same old arguments being chased angrily down the same old cul de sacs and the same irate people become increasingly frustrated because their own favoured crescendo to the debate is not on the agenda.
For some Southgate soberly assessing where last season went horribly wrong – the hasty exit of Luke Young, the departures of Cattermole and Boeteng without new faces coming in to replace them, Alves failing to ignite, the slow motion slide towards relegation and the effect of key players wanting away in January – is a good thing. Recognition and acknowledging mistakes is a key step in preventing them being repeated and doing it in public helps show that the club are willing to take responsibility for relegation.
But for others – many others – the interview will be seen as a provocation, a brass-necked public picking at barely healed scabs and a premature attempt to play the popular politicians’ card of ‘drawing a line under it.’ For them because heads have not rolled – an assistant in the BBC and a masseuse or two hardly constitute a full blooded Night of the Long Knives – the architects of the downfall have escaped responsibility.
Last week there was much talk of opinions without accountability and for the harshest critics such interviews are objects lessons in just that. The conclusion will be drawn that if Southgate is putting his hand up to the mistakes that led to relegation (and he bravely moves away from the collective mantra that was the soundtrack to the summer to take personal culpability on many issues) then he should carry the can.
Southgate was very open and never ducked a question. The answers may not be what people want to hear – and let’s be honest, some people want a full scale public rigourous Maoist self criticism session combined with the medieval self-flagelation of a wretched sinner, preferably with the sound of a gallows being knocked up in the background – but that is always the case: beauty is in the ear of the beholder.
In covering all the bases and admitting mistakes – Cattermole, Young, Alves – the gaffer is simply pointing out a selection of sticks to be used to beat him with. Knowing that yet going ahead with the interview (two hours in the Hurworth canteen) shows real steel and willingness to front up and take responsibility… which brings us back to the notion of “opinions without accountability.”
In his weekly Gazette growl today an affronted Bernie Slaven tackled head-on some of the issues pointed to by Southgate in last week’s rage at the machine. The gaffer had pointed to the rumblings from radio phone-ins and inescapable cyber soap box of internet message boards as contributing directly to the negativity in the ground and the booing that piled pressure on a young team that, after all, very much in the shake-up.
Bernie was naturally fighting his own corner – his job on the Three Legends is to facilitate just the kind of populist hue and cry that Southgate has suggested helps if not create, then certainly perpetuate the white noise of dissent – and made a string of good points in a sterling “we’re no living in Russia” ‘free speech’ defence of his role.

“When I hear Gareth Southgate having a pop at the fans in the national press and talking about supporters who boo the players and who criticise them on phone-ins and internet message boards as being “opinions without accountability” I take offence at that. I take offence because I work for the biggest phone-in show in the region and that means whether he meant to or not he is having a pop at me, my colleagues and my callers.
“But I take offence speaking as a Boro fan too because when you are talking about “accountability” then what fans want to know is who is taking accountability for relegation, for being the lowest scorers in Britain and for a string of players like Alves who cost a fortune but who were disasters?
“Fans don’t boo for fun. They aren’t being unreasonable after one bad game. The booing is because year on year the team has got worse, results at home have been terrible, we’ve slipped back from Eindhoven to the Championship and performances have been rank bad along the way. Fans have every right to an opinion on that! For me anyone in football who points the finger at the supporters is trying to hide from their own responsibility. Fans don’t lose games, they don’t pick the team or make the substitutions.

It is hard to disagree with any of that. And to be fair I don’t think Southgate would disagree with the rights of fans to express an opinion. What he did say though was expressing it had consequences, in this case possibly demotivating a young, recently reassembled team that were trying hard and are overall in a good position.
And Bernie himself admitted that the booing was a double edged sword.

” I know that as a player if you are booed as you come off after a game where you have really tried hard but it hasn’t quite gone right that you do resent it and you do talk in the dressing room. You do! Some like me get fired up and think “stuff you” and go and score in the next game to prove a point but others let it get to them and heads go down of they can stop busting a gut.

Perhaps the most pertinent point the Glaswegian fence climber made was about how the upsurge in populist opinion – radio and TV phone-ins, e-mails being read out live, internet forums and, yes, blogs too – was partly down to the way clubs have gradually tried to take control of the free flow of information.
Clubs have launched their own magazines, TV stations and websites as potential revenue streams and see themselves increasingly as rivals to the traditional media, while collectively they become far more strident in protecting their product and copyright. At the same time players have become media savvy and know they too are a product and that they should control their own image rights where possible. As a result much that is in the media has a sanitised “official” stamp on it.
So maybe it is no surprise that passionate fans have tried to reassert their cultural control of the game’s soul by expressing forthright opinions on every platform possible – especially when they see their own role denigrated, sidelined or insulted. As Bernie said:

“It really gets my goat when football clubs – all football clubs, not just Boro – try to control people’s opinions. And they do want to control opinions. They can control what is written in the programme, when and where you talk to players, who is allowed to broadcast from the ground. They can try to manipulate what is in the press or on TV.
“But they can’t control the fans’ opinions and every time they even try it is a slap in the face for the people who care most. If there is one sure way to rile fans it is to tell them they are wrong to express an opinion. Our switchboard nearly went into melt down when Steve McClaren said Boro fans needed to be educated and when Keith Lamb said the club didn’t care about season ticket holders and preferred match by match fans.
Now Gareth is telling the fans not to boo the players!”

And Bernie also points out that people are far more informed about the game than ever before. That is undoubtedly true. When I was a kid foreign players never entered my consciousness until the few weeks of the World Cup forced them in via TV and Panini sticker books, and even then you knew so little of their capabilities. Now my boy, 10, has a mental list of continental superstars, knows what positions they play, what their relatives strengths are and their inside leg measurement all through playing endless hour of Football Manager, FIFA and ProEvo.
The internet, wall to wall TV coverage from the G14 Brand Fest of the Champions League down to the Conference, YouTube, endless acres of newsprint all make the game as comprehensively covered as an any area of human endeavour in history. Fans still have the same basic spectrum of emotions and perspectives – but now they have far more information to back them up when it comes to justifying them…. and far more outlets should they be inclined to evangelise. As Bernie said:

“Look, I know there are blokes out there who can’t even spell ‘football’ and taking stick off people like that really hurts. But there are a lot of fans who have watched the game for years and are very knowledgeable. There is football so much on TV, on the internet and computer games. Fans are more informed than ever.
“And yes, there are more outlets now for their opinions, the Legends is one, the internet is another… but that’s healthy. For me it actually takes pressure off the players because it helps fans get their frustrations out in a good way. In my day fans worked nine to five all week and stored up their frustrations and really let rip at their team on Saturday.”

Where I do disagree is his insistence that every opinion is equal, that all should be given the same air-time and all carry the same weight. In theory maybe. But it is a pseudo-democratic argument that helps to reduce the overall level of debate. Look at the comments stream on JustinTV for frightening evidence of that. And some forums are zoos. And that helps the clubs dismiss the genuine nuggets of insight and real political questions raised in such forums. Which is why I spike posts on here that are foul mouthed, hate filled and untruthful.
An ill-informed, vindictive rant peppered with insults and half-truths and regurgitate pub rambling bereft of context is easily used as evidence that fans are stupid and that by extension that the media are encouraging willful ingnorance.
Plus, and this is important, it is not as useful a contribution as shrewd insight backed by tactical, technical or historical knowledge or genuine understanding of the mechanics of the game. And that is not about elitism but a concern for the content. What makes such popular imput as yours valuable – and gives it political weight – is the selection and moderating process. But then, I would say that wouldn’t I.

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96 thoughts on “Opinions, Accountability And Shouting From The Cyber Soapbox

  1. Bernie is completely correct in saying that everyone has the “RIGHT” to an opinion but he is wrong if he is saying that every opinion is EQUAL.
    They are not equal. That is why Bernie has a column in the Gazette and not say John Powls. Bernie is a former player so we give his opinions more weight, despite the fact that half of what he says is utter tosh (Bernie, not Powls).
    If anyone on the Legends disagrees with him Bernie is quick to wheel out the fact he was a player as he shouts them down. In fact, Bernie can’t go two sentences without reminding people that he used to be a professional. That because no matter what he says about every opinion being equal he actually believes the opposite – that being a former player makes him more informed. And it does.
    I will get some stick for this but judging by what I hear around me, most fans don’t know anything about the game. They think passion is the same as knowledge. It isnt. Most are stupid. They don’t understand tactics, they don’t understand what players are doing, the don’t understand that there are two teams on the pitch and sometimes what the other lot are doing is the most important thing, and they don’t even understand the rules.
    I hear enough rubbish in the ground and in the pubs. I hear even more idiots on the phone-ins (606, talksport, Youre on Sky Sports and the local versions) and now even the Championship highlights show gets some bimbo to read out e-mails from other fools. Always ridiculous extremes, either sack someone after one defeat or someone else is going to win the league. These shows paint a very poor picture of us fans.

  2. I agree with Bernie. Southgate should apologise for slagging the fans. We can say what the hell we like. If the dont like being booed they should start winning games.

  3. I really do not see the point of this interview stuff with Southgate. I don’t know whether this was a contrived attempt by the Gazette and MFC to “put the record straight” from the managers point of view, but whatever the reason, for me it failed miserably.
    It succeeded only in dragging up all the stuff we on this blog and everyone else who supports Boro knew in our heads and hearts of why we got relegated, something I am still having trouble coming to terms with, hence I haven’t been on here for some time (even though I read every word).
    I really don’t want to read any more from the MFC trio about the why’s and wherefore’s. What’s done is done and everyone associated with MFC and Boro are having to live with it.
    Whether we like it or not the bubble has exploded and we are now a Championship team, who even if we were to gain promotion, is going to struggle like hell to survive and stay in the PL.
    So if MFC and the Gazette are going to contrive to get all the lost fans back on side, then why not tell us what the plans are should we get back up. For instance where will the funds come from for new players, Gibbo has none now so why should we expect he will suddenly find a pot of gold come May.

  4. I hate international breaks. The local sports papers have no news to write about so they resort to doing things that have already been done and then split it into three installments to fill even more paper space…
    We have another break in November. Who are you going to reinterview again then?
    They should cut out qualification altogether. Do it like Ice Hockey, A, B, C world championship with relegation and promotion. Then we have no breaks, and the bed wetters can moan about the last match instead of having to repeatedly moan about last season.

  5. Steve H
    I have been drinking gallons of water, beer, coffee and tea but I am having real troubles bed wetting. My wife is thinking of sending me to the doctors to see if I can get a prescription.
    International breaks are a real pain. I never thought I would see the day when I was more interested in the Republic of Irelend than England. My standard response to the Celtic nations is that I give them all the support and best wishes that they give England, cant be fairer than that.
    It is probably reasonable to say that Ledge scoring and not being culpable for the goals conceded is a result. Sorry to Celtic Boro supporters, nothing personal.
    I suppose the fact the ingerlund match wasnt on TV created part of the problem. Still Notts County vs Torquay up next. I have a soft spot for Count living in the Midlands. Dont tell anyone, but I have a soft spot for Helen Chamberlain as well.

  6. This whole interview thing has just dragged up old wounds. This should have been done at the end of last season with all three of them.
    Since the season has started we first had Lamb then Gibson and now Southgate giving their accounts of what went wrong. All interviews coming after decent wins.
    If all this was out early the good start would have put this all to bed but no we are now spending two weeks dissecting what happened last season ten games into this one. In business that is trying to fix history which we all know you cannot.
    Before this last set of doom interviews from Gareth we were getting into what the team, club, fans needed to do to turn things around at home. As our next two games are at home I find this a far more important issue.

  7. I notice the Uncle Eric article about Boro trying to keep Johnson.
    Here is a little tip, play him on the left side of midfield, you may find it helps but one suspects he is waiting to see who is interested in January.
    If an established Premiership side cames along with a decent offer then I suspect he will move because he will put his future before any loyalty to Boro. I will not criticise anyone for thinking of their career.
    The club will be faced with the prospect of him leaving on a free or taking some profit on an academy player. And of course we have those well known left wingers, Yeates and Arca.

  8. If Adam Johnson decides not to sign a contract extension in the next few months then does that place him into the group of players who don’t want to be at Boro? – and hence not part of Southgate’s criteria for people he wants at the club.
    Personally, I can’t see him signing a new deal if, as uncle Eric says, PL clubs are queuing up ready to make an offer in January – can Boro offer him better wages than Sunderland for example? So what’s in it for him to stay at Boro beyond his current contract? At best be part of a low-budget team where avoiding relegation from the PL is the aim.
    So Boro have only two choices: sell him in January and risk promotion but bank the cash or keep him until next summer and be happy with a small compensation fee – Sadly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him joining Cattemole up the road if he sits down with his advisors to discuss his future ambitions.

  9. AV, this internatonal break is awfull! Please give something positive to think about.
    Let’s concentrate on the next home game. What are the weak and strong points of our opponents? How do you, AV, see us attacking at home . We do have a problem with our home form? What can supporters do to make Riverside a fortress again?
    My prediction: Boro 2 Watford 0. AV’s prediction?
    Up the Boro!
    **AV writes: I think we will batter them. Then again I always do when it is that far away. I don’t start flapping until the morning of the game.

  10. As it is looking like a slow news day (famous last words, we are bound to announce the return of Juninho or something).
    AV, does being a boro fan help you when writing these blogs? Or if you were to move to Dundee do you think you could do a similar thing North of the border or for any club? In the world of journalism is there headhunting in local papers. Would you fancy a move to a national? What would it take to turn your head? (neck muscles withstanding)
    PS. Ever since I mentioned the number of replays to these blogs they have gone through the roof. Coincidence?
    **AV writes: You need to be emotionally engaged, obsessive over minutae and have overly sensitive political attenna to write top quality BS like this. I couldn’t do it anywhere else. I have “snubbed” approaches from bigger clubs because I’d rather have the creative freedom and be happy in what I do than have more money but write rubbish I don’t care about for papers I don’t like. I’m old fashioned like that.

  11. I think the above comments by John Powls and others rearding Jonno are incorrect.
    Why would any club offer big money for a player that they can get 5 months later with only a payment for his development.
    Also IF we are in the same league position in January what’s in it for the club to accept £2-3m for him.He could be the difference between going up and not .That alone will earn the club about £25m T.V. money.
    I believe he will stay for the season.If at the end of it we’ve gone up then even if we lose him it will have been a gamble that’s paid for itself about 10 times.
    **AV writes: The main reason a club may offer cash in January is to steal a march on other clubs. Come the summer there could be eight-10-12 clubs interested and then it becomes a wages auction.
    Anyone who fears they may get squeezed out by more glamorous or bigger paying rivals then (say a lower-mid Prem side) may be tempted to make their move early.

  12. Cheers AV, are there any rumours of potential investment into the club? Reports at the weekend suggest that at least 10 wealthy Arabs were looking to invest in PL and Championship clubs. I honestly don’t want a billionaire foreign sugar daddy. That may be the only way to compete at the very top, but we have never been there anyway.
    Also I believe a Euro Super league is now a serious possibility. Maybe not Flavio’s TOSS but it will happen in some form. With seven or eight of the top clubs out of the league it would make it a lot more competitive. Anyway, would the club be open to foreign investment? I’m guessing Gibbo wants to remain the major share holder, but would he take some petro dollars?
    PS: When you turned down the bigger club did you do it Steven Gerrard style, by initially accepting, then rejecting and getting a bumper new contract? Take that Wapping!!
    **AV writes: As if myself, my agent, my accountant and my PR and brand management consultant would play a cynical game like that!

  13. AV, for a bet have you ever put a certain word, an acronym or phrase into one of your articles? Can we use the quietness of this international break to request articles for the next break in November? Providing we don’t lose the next five games and you really do have something to write about, how about?
    • The academy, how much has it cost, who has it turned out, how many pro’s now in the game are due to the MFC academy?
    • On an uplifting note, favourite boro memories but not the obvious promotion or cup highlights?
    **AV writes: I’m always up to do requests.
    Some random Boro memories: the away game at Barnsley where they thought they had been promoted because their PA man got a score wrong and then had to retract it to spark chaos, including the angry home fans being faced down by the Boro ‘lads’ in Hawaiian shirts and flip flops; the back doors of a transit van bursting open at the traffic lights in Nottingham city centre before the play-offs and a loads of Boro lads falling out and one of them getting up blow a reveille on a bugle; people barging Pele out of the way to get Wilfie’s autograph at Wembley; Save Redcar Baths! Uwe Fuchs walking up and down the bar in the Dickens wearing only a black plastic bag; Willie will you reggae with me; hundreds of Boro lads sitting on the lions and in the fountains in Trafalgar Square singing the night before the ZDS; Alen Boksic scoring a wonder goal against Coventry and looking bored to tears by the whole thing; being soaked through to the bones at Old Trafford in the Rumbelows SG in 1992; the sadness of the auction when they broke up and sold off Ayresome Park….. and many, many more.

  14. Adam Johnson was on Soccer AM Saturday morning.(His pal Jonathan Grounds was backstage). He stated that he liked playing on the right. Perhaps a bit of player power is being exercised?
    From his demeanour I would suggest cashing in on him in January.

  15. I’m not too sure there is much point in sweating on Johnno , historical evidence suggests Boro won’t sell in January. If that is the case we will have the benefit of his services until May, then if we’re still in the Championship he will leave for a premiership club and if we’ve been promoted he may stay as we will be able to offer him a big salary increase. Or alternatively he will leave for a club playing in the Champions league (is he that good?) or the Europa league.
    My gut feeling is that he is on his way, he may be similar to Downing in that he uses his left foot and has talent, but I’m not sure he has Downing’s loyalty, which was unusually strong. He isn’t a ‘Boro boy’ born within the magic 5 mile radius of the Riverside is he?
    If he goes hopefully it will be on the back of playing a big part in Boro gaining promotion. Interestingly I feel from what I read that already one or two posters are preparing to blame GS for his departure, unbelievable!

  16. If Jinky doesnt want to sign a new contract then there is nothing Gate or anyone else can do.
    I would like to see him stay and help us get back up. I just hope we dont get another squad unsettling Jan all over again.

  17. “If he’s square-pegging himself, his manager ought to insist he knocks it off!”
    Even if they’re all agreed that it’s the best interests of the team that he plays there to accommodate a particular line-up thought to be most effective against whatever the opposition is?
    I don’t suppose for even a second that Johnson is making up his own rules as he goes along. Southgate doesn’t strike me as being one to tolerate too much from too many mavericks – even when being held to ransom on players’ future loyalties.
    Johnson is no different to most players. He’s young and ambitious on two counts – sporting achievement and money (and not necessarily in that order!). He’s had a great upbringing in the sport and shows some promise. He’s far from being the finished article, but probably feels he won’t achieve his full potential at Boro – especially since he’s seen all that’s been done an undone in his last few years at this particular club.
    He’ll know Boro’s wage structure and the club’s prospects and, like most everyone else in any line of work, will look to fast track through the ranks by-passing the hard stuff if he can make it. So why struggle for recognition at Championship rates when he could be struggling for greater recognition on much higher rates?
    And Johnson’s never struck me as being one short in self-esteem. He’s always come across as a lad who’s self-assessment has always been at a premium to that of others. So what’s the big driver for him to stay – if there are likely to be other offers on the table from Premier League clubs prepared to offer him Premier League wages and take the risk on his potential being more than just that?
    It’s a bit of a “no brainer”, is it not? He can always fall back down a league if he fails. He’s young enough, and with his style of play, he’s unlikely to incur serious impact injury!

  18. Said it before – Should of sold Downing when the money was offered and had more trust in Johnson. That’s not in hindsight!!
    All this nonesense that he may not be up to PL level… , get him in a team with other quality players and see him shine and be an England regular!
    I remember when not much faith was shown in Downing and he nearly went to the mackems very cheaply.
    At the moment Johnson in a very average team and with a very average manager (being kind!) any team we play at the moment can double up on him, imagine if their were with players of equal ability in the team who could frighten defenders with skills and pace.
    Like many times before Boro have been too late in sitting down and making players feel wanted!!

  19. I don’t have time to give the 49 paragraph piece on why we should try to keep AJ if we can (and also why I believe he will stay until the summer and then review his options, influenced by whether or not we are then in the PL). I will say only that I have this on the authority of my hairstylist (“Stop that undignified noise at the back!).
    However, equally pressing is the fact that the National Blood Transfusion Service has been paying a visit, and draining some of the natives in my parish. I saw somebody hiding in the shadows when I came out. I think it must have been The Count, casing the joint to see if he could make a “withdrawal”.
    **AV writes: Well the nights are drawing in.

  20. Johnson will leave in the summer, I have absolutely no doubt.
    Whether he has squared pegged himself or not, his performance levels on the right touchline are abysmal at the moment, and quite frankly unless Southgate sorts it out and gets him back on the left both Boro and Johnson are going to struggle, particularly at home.
    Although I accept that his worth to the team is probably more important this season than any previous season, he may as well not be on the park for the impact he is having at the moment.
    I’ve personally always thought Jinky a bit of an enigma anyway and I still believe his performances elsewhere for England are what is putting him in other managers minds, not his (recent) performances for Boro.
    He’ll go, but hopefully he’ll have helped us to at least a play off place.
    **AV writes: I’m not sure where this in vogue ‘Jonno is rubbish on the right’ line has come from but he was devastating there at Sheff Wed. As he has been a few times.
    Isn’t his own productivity (and need to switch wings) directly related to how many men the opposition opt to stick on him to stifle him rather than his position?

  21. Have I timed this post to get the magic 100?
    Anyhow Johnson should sign an extension and he can load it with caveats such as promotion etc and then he would get a transfer fee. So I think he will be wise and sign up.
    **AV writes: Miles wide. Its gone out for a throw.

  22. **AV writes: I’m not sure where this in vogue ‘Jonno is rubbish on the right’ line has come from but he was devastating there at Sheff Wed. As he has been a few times.
    Isn’t his own productivity (and need to switch wings) directly related to how many men the opposition opt to stick on him to stifle him rather than his position?”
    Careful AV!! You’re in danger of leading the witnesses! (But a big “Well done!” all the same!)
    This particular “law” ( or opinion stated so frequently as to become embedded in the psyche of those who read it – as in Huxley’s “Brave New World”) came from a couple of the frequent visitors/contributors here who are infrequent visitors/contributors to the Riverside, but follow the Boro to some “away” matches; people whose opinions are equal – but more equal than others (as in Orwell’s “Animal Farm”) and who, in their own way, have all the answers tactically and seemingly, according to them, unlike Gareth Southgate!
    Leading the witnesses is an art form it would seem! It’s a question of “knowing” your readership – or listeners. Ask Bernie Slaven – he’s making a living out of it!
    Richard Dawkins proposed the concept of “Memes” back in 1976 in “The Selfish Gene” and, more recently, the effects of memetic propagation have been illustrated in Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”. It’s a very real concept and one used to exploit the unwary or the susceptible and bend them to the will of the perpetrator. A bit like the darker side of NLP.
    You can fool some of the people some of the time……….

  23. If Digard is fit and returns into the team this weekend then I expect Johnson will be returning to the left as it probably means O’Neil gets pushed out to the right in order to leave Williams in the centre – or will Williams be dropped and Yeates retained since it’s only Watford at home?
    I’m sure Boro have already decided to keep Johnson until the end of the season as failing to gain promotion by a few points after selling him would need more than a few interviews with the gazette to convince the fans it was the right decision.
    Having said that – What kind of offer would it take to persuade Boro to sell him in January?

  24. AV
    Johnno isnt rubbish on the right, as I posted before, Mendi14 said he was brilliant at Sheff Wed in that position. He is also brilliant on the left. Switching wings is ok and provides a different set of problems for defenders.
    The evidence of my own eyes over 180 minutes of football in the last two games is that he poses more problems on the left. In the brief time he played in that position against Leicester he got to the bye line several times and put in crosses that troubled their defence.
    He then went on the right where he played most of rest of that match and at Reading. Most of the time he was shepherded on to his left foot 30-40 yards out and if he got past the defender there was always another player drifted over to pick him up in a central area and if needed a third.
    We got a few free kicks that came to nothing but never got the defence turned and going back towards their own goal. It compressed the space, he was always running into defenders facing up the pitch.
    On the left, if he gets past his man and it is normally on the outside so the second defender has to go wide and is pulled out of the centre creating more space because players have to come out to meet him rather than waiting as he cuts into the middle towards them. If he beats his man on the inside he can still go wide again.
    In either case he is pulling the ball across the box or even backwards which all defenders hate.
    He can be double marked on either flank but the geometry gives a greater advantage on the left. If you dont believe me just get some paper and a pen and draw it out. If you want I will email a drawing to you!
    The same argument can be used for many players. O’Neill may be good on the right but he is better in central midfield. Wheater can play right back but is better at centre half.
    Jinky doesnt have to stay nailed to the left touchline, he is too talented for that but he causes so many problems out there that the variations should be that not the norm. Against poorer teams it wont matter so much but against the well organised teams it is playing into their hands.
    A look at the games so far illustrate what I mean about the need to use every advantage.
    (based on current positions)
    Bottom half played 6 won 6.
    Top half played 5 drawn 2 lost 3.
    We need to take every opportunity possible to create space, compressing the play just plays into their hands. If you asked their coaches what they feared I am sure it is the thought of Jinky getting to the bye line and cutting the ball back. What they would like is to shepherd him into ambushes in towards the centre of the pitch.

  25. Agree with Alan give him a contract extension on higher pay.With a get out clause if we dont go up.If we do go up and he still wants to go ie top six intrest then also let him go but we still get the fee we want as he is still under contract.
    Win win that way dont you think.
    On the Watford game i would love to see us take one of these teams to the cleaners 5 or 6.But alas a certain Mr Graham will be hear and no doubt will have some say in the result.

  26. By all accounts Jinky had a poor game v Reading. But I don’t believe this had anything to do with him playing on the right. I think he just looked a little tired and jaded and I would have said he didn’t impose himself on the game as much as he can.
    However, from that right position he did put in a wondeful ball straight to Lita, who on another day would have buried the chance. What I think we really have to ask is how do we want to use Johnson? As a winger to create or as a goal getter?
    I suspect he prefers the right because it allows him to come inside and strike with his left. Cristiano Ronaldo frequently switched to the left for Utd for this reason; deadly cutting inside with his right boot.
    What we all seem to forget is that we can’t expect Johnson to tear up every opposition defence, every game. Whether he plays on the right or left, he isn’t going to do that every game regardless. He has off days, defenders have good days and may get the better of him or the opposition may plan to shut him out.
    We need to ensure he is just 1 of 11 and that we don’t become predictable.

  27. My favourite memory is my first. Walking to Ayrsome Park we passed a corner shop, and a young man came out. He had just bought a loaf (un sliced) of bread and proceeded to bite straight into it. Devouring the whole thing in 5mins as we walked behind. Immediately I knew football and the boro were for me.
    As for Johnno, Bids of £5m plus in January will be hard to turn down, but it is unlikely he will want to go to the like of Bolton etc. If the big boys are interested in him in the summer, and don’t forget the new UEFA Champs league ruling on ‘home grown’ players he will look very attractive to some teams.
    If we get promoted then he has done his job. He probably doesn’t want to be with a small prem club, but that might be his only options. Stay with a promoted Boro or move to an established Stoke? Who pays the biggest wages? Notts County!

  28. Ian, I was assuming if Digard replaces Yeates then O’Neil plays on the right leaving Johnson to play on the left. I’m not aware of O’Neil playing left wing but you can never be sure where the pegs fit these days.
    Still, we have little aerial threat in the box during open play should Johnson play left wing – which means pulling the ball back for the arriving midfielders.

  29. Werdermouth
    You do not need an aerial threat if he plays left or right but if he is coming off the right side the defenders can gobble the lofted ball down the middle a lot easier facing away from goal.
    The ball pulled back gives smaller attackers a chance to get across defenders plus the oncoming midfielders.
    John
    There is no problem playing Jinky on the right in parts of games but not all the time. It makes it easier for the defence to be set up to channel him inside. Even if he goes the other way onto his right foot his end product is not that good as good yet as but it will come.
    I come back to the fundamental points that defenders do not like turning, facing their own goal, being stretched or pace. However it is dressed up as cutting inside onto his shooting foot if on the right, the balance of the team is better suited to him playing on the left.

  30. Good players can play anywhere. The aim is for the team to win. They haven’t done too badly so far this season. How about playing him through the middle like Ronaldo did for Man U.

  31. AV, The Sheff Wed game was one game, where I am sure Mr Laws would have been looking at his defenders and wondering why the hell they gave Jonno so much room.
    I didn’t say he was rubbish on the right, I said his performances were abysmal, you might equate that to mean the same thing, but in my eyes this means he is not doing himself or the team justice by the fact that his contribution to the team effort and impact on a game is somewhat diminished.
    Jonno is best placed on the left, this is my honest opinion, not that of any other “perpetrator” on this blog, I am not siding with anyone, I don’t think I’m having my will bent in any way, and I’m not a tactical genius. I’m just a fan who thinks that Jonno is wasted on the right but fits the role on the left as an attacking winger, where he seems more adept at getting behind or turning opposition defences.

  32. SmogOnTheTyne, I can almost hear Dvorjak’s New World Symphony as you reminisce about your first trip to Ayresome Park behind the young man with the Hovis.
    I always recall as a small boy hearing the roar of the crowd from our garden, which was about 10 minutes walk from the ground, and thinking it must be increbibly exciting to be there – though it was quite a few years before my dad took me to my
    first game – it was 2-0 win against Everton.
    **AV writes: I remember being totally gobsmacked by the frequency, volume and sheer creativity of the swearing!

  33. I must have made it this time…..?
    My first match was against Hull in 1969 – I was amazed it was in colour as up until then I had only seen black and white matches on shoot or black and white photos ( or pink) in the Evening Gazette.
    **AV writes: Get in ! It’s there. Scambled home at the second attempt after a long throw from Werdermouth.

  34. Rory Delap has got nowt on me as I’ve just managed to throw the ball from Bremen to Bahrain! – Anyway, a well timed run Allan but I think I’d better get an ice-pack for my shoulder before I read your new article AV – though I guess Dormo isn’t going to be happy when he returns home from work with another salmon under his arm.

  35. I would like to draw attention to the fitness level of AV. It seems to take a long time for him to put up a post, perhaps he is taking a rest between them. This lack of blog fitness enables late posters to cash in and claim injury time winners!
    I expect I will be hauled up by the blog writers union for this.
    **AV writes: It is not about ‘fitness’ it is about recovery time and specific training and preparation for the next one. There are three blogs a week in this league, it is a real grind so we have to be careful how we manage a small inexperienced squad of one.

  36. You’re dead right, Werder. 103 and sick! Some of have work to do, and then to make sure a nice plate of chicken with roasted vegetables is ready to be put before the lady of the house on her return (it doesn’t pay to annoy her….).
    I still had my tracksuit on. How about a recount? Is there no justice?

  37. Neil (Yarm): Back from Ulsan then Neil?
    I may agree with your point if it was viewed in isolation and without considering other factors like, “if the opposition snuff that particular threat out, by close marking for example, what alternative creative attacking options might we deploy and which of our other players ought to be present on the field of play to provide those options?”.
    Football is a team game – not a game centred on one individual and upon whom excessive reliance and expectation should be placed. Attacking options are something that Boro hasn’t been well endowed with for a while now, so anything that brings goals has to be welcomed, surely?
    The other thing that occurs to me is that Johnson on the left wing (to those of a conventional mindset, his strongest “position”) will (probably) come up against a natural right back whose strongest suit will be to his left.
    Playing Johnson on the right puts Johnson’s stronger left foot in contention with the left-back opponent’s weaker right when he breaks inside at pace. This can lead to several advantages through him getting away completely and stealing a shot at goal or distributing to someone better placed, or a late challenge gaining free-kicks around the box, or better, penalties. Free kicks in such positions are well-placed for his stronger left foot to curl with pace towards the goal into the box.
    Incidentally Neil, I didn’t have you in mind when I mentioned “perpetrators”, but if you feel the cap fits in any way, who am I to tell you not to wear it?!

  38. Richard,
    I know you didn’t mean me, but I always think of a perpetrator as a crimnal type for some reason, “the perp” in some of those US CSi shows. But nah, the cap definitely doesn’t fit.

  39. Just for those of you who were wondering, the game was Boro 3 – 1 York City. I was also mightily impressed with the swearing but couldn’t get one non swear word out of my head, ‘Fisog’. Still makes me laugh to this day. On an unsavoury note are Wedermouth and AV sharing Ice baths to aid their recovery?
    I hope I nab post 107, thats my lucky number, some say IQ

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